On Oct. 5 borough voters will be asked to weigh in on whether to borrow up to $16,866,500 in bonds to fix school roofs on 11 buildings across the Kenai Peninsula.
That's the subject of Kenai Peninsula Borough Proposition 1, Educational Capital Improvement General Obligation Bonds.
The proposition asks voters, "Shall the Kenai Peninsula Borough borrow up to $16,866,500 through the issuance of general obligation bonds?"
If passed, proceeds would be used to pay for roof replacements at:
* Homer Middle;
* K-Beach Elementary;
* Kenai Central High;
* Kenai Elementary;
* McNeil Canyon Elementary;
* Nikiski Middle-High;
* Ninilchik School;
* Seward Elementary;
* Soldotna High; and
* a district warehouse.
"What happened back in the 1980s when the district was expanding, oil was running and everyone was moving here, a lot of schools were built," said Dave Jones, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District assistant superintendent. "Now those schools are 20, 25, 30 years old and the roofs that were originally put on have reached their useful life or beyond. We're at the point in time where the work needs to be done."
Additionally, the district is pushing to take advantage of the state's 70-percent reimbursement rate. That would leave the borough responsible for 30 percent of the costs, or an estimated $5.1 million plus interest, at an annual cost to the borough of $368,000.
"This is an opportunity to have the roofs done and have the state pay for the vast majority of it," said Jones.
Through a federal program, the borough also has an opportunity to be reimbursed a portion of the interest expense on the bonds, for an estimated savings of $35,000.
For borough taxpayers, passage of the proposition will cost $5.78 per $100,000 of property value.
Currently, taxpayers are paying $3.80 per $100,000 of property value for a fiscal year 2001 bond debt that will be retired during fiscal year 2011.
When that happens, taxpayers will be paying $1.98 more than they are now paying, if Proposition 1 passes.
From her visits to schools throughout the district, school board vice president Liz Downing of Homer has seen firsthand the need for roof repairs.
"I was walking thorough a high school recently and there were trash cans out to catch the rain," said Downing.
These 11 aren't the only buildings in need of work, but the extent of the repairs needed has given them first priority.
"We hired an architect to look at all the roofs and see what shape they're in, determine what needed to be fixed and rate the priority of these roofs," said Jones. "The other thing was how often maintenance is being called to the schools to work on roofs."
In another two to three years, the district will address the other roofs identified as needing repair and "bring back a bond issue to fix those," said Jones.
If Proposition No. 1 doesn't get voter approval, the district will be responsible for 100 percent of the repairs that will have to be made.
"We'll continue to peck away with partial patches and probably have to do it on our own," said Steve Atwater, district superintendent. "It'll obviously be a much slower process and obviously pretty expensive. We'll get by, but not as comprehensively as we could have."
In addition to information on the proposition provided in the borough voter pamphlet, the district also has information on its web site.
"As a district we have to give the facts. We're not saying, 'vote for this, it's a great thing.' We just have to give the facts," said Jones.
"When you look at the information we're giving out, we're trying to say here's the facts, here's what you need to know to vote."
Asked for an argument against passage of the proposition, Downing said, "The only argument I could think of is that property tax goes up $1.98 per $100,000, and that's less than a cup of coffee. That's a short Americano."
To read about Proposition No. 1 visit the borough web site at borough.kenai.ak.us. or the district web site at kpbsd.k12.ak.us.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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